Tuesday, April 21, 2009


'Tis the season for strawberries!

You can't walk through the markets without smelling strawberries. Really. Saturday morning was a perfect example of the red, fragrant fields of strawberries that are displayed at the market...but I was in a hurry and didn't have my camera so no pictures.

There are basically two kinds: regular and gariguette. Actually, that's a huge lie. It turns out that there are over 600 strawberry cultivars grown around the world. (You can get a look at some of the names of them here.) The "regular" strawberries, so-called because they look pretty much like all the strawberries I've seen before (large, dark-red when ripe, but with way more variation in shape here than at home), stand in stark contrast to these gariguettes.

Gariguettes are early strawberries and have been in the markets since the very end of March. They are somewhat smaller, flatter and paler than the "regular" strawberries. The skin is also a lot thinner and they're softer and juicier. These would never survive shipping from California to Chicago (but then, neither would the "regular" strawberries, which are also noticeably softer than what we are used to), although they're a common varietal here in southern France and represent 20% of France's strawberry production.

They are a bit pricey though. And now that it's late April, they don't look quite as good as they did a month ago. So, we've been eating a lot of those "regular" strawberries that smell as sweet as candy (if only strawberry-flavored candy actually tasted like strawberries).

And since we don't have an oven to make shortcakes, crêpes are a great substitute.

Crêpes (compiled from a million different recipes on-line)
2 c. flour
pinch of salt
0 - 3 Tbs. sugar (sweet or savory?)
3 eggs
1 c. milk
1 c. water
2 Tbs. oil

Whisk the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and make a well. Crack the eggs into the well and start whisking them into the dry ingredients so the eggs start to get incorporated into the flour (but not fully -- apparently this would result in grainy crêpes and make incorporating the liquid really difficult). Then, whisking constantly, slowly pour in the liquid and whisk until flour is fully incorporated. Mix in the oil. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour or even overnight.

When it's time to make the crêpes, whisk the batter again. Get the pan good and hot. Grease it with a little oil (or clarified butter if you prefer). Then pour some of the batter into the pan and tilt the pan around to spread the batter evenly. Cook about a minute then flip and cook for another 30 sec. or so.

Top with strawberries or fill with nutella, or both!

You should stand around the kitchen and eat (or fill, or top and then eat) the crêpes immediately when they're still warm, but you can also stack them and cover them with a towel or foil to keep them warm while you make a bunch.

Both the batter and the cooked crêpes will keep a couple of days in the fridge. The crêpes themselves are best when fresh so I usually put the batter in a big jar after making it and then I can just shake it up and make them fresh.

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